Expository Preaching

The Perfection Which the King Requires (Exposition of Matthew 5:48)

The question is often asked, “How can a loving God send people to hell?” But a more appropriate question biblically is, “How can a holy God send anyone to heaven?” This is a question that is raised by Jesus’ words in the last verse of Matthew 5 where the King demands, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” Matthew 5:48

I. The Perfection Which God Possesses.
Jesus simply states in verse 48 that God the Father is perfect, “as your Father in heaven is perfect.” The perfection of God is an attribute of God which summarizes all His other attributes, i.e., His love is a perfect love, His holiness is a perfect holiness, His grace is a perfect grace, His wrath is a perfect wrath, etc. Wayne Grudem, in his Systematic Theology (p. 218) defines God’s perfection as follows:

God’s perfection means that God completely possesses all excellent qualities and lacks no part of any qualities that would be desirable for him.

Another way to speak of God’s perfection is to speak of His holiness or His righteousness. These terms refer to the moral perfection of God. He is completely or wholly other. He is the standard of all morality and righteousness.

The prophet Isaiah was overwhelmed by the moral perfection of God’s holiness when he saw the LORD in the temple when King Uzziah died in Isaiah 6. After seeing the One whom the angelic beings called seraphims worshiped by crying out to each other, “Holy, Holy, Holy is the LORD of hosts.”, Isaiah cried out in horror, “Woe is me, for I am undone! Because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.” In Ezekiel 43, the LORD appeared to the prophet Ezekiel and the prophet fell on his face! This gives us an idea of the degree of perfection which God possesses that even the holiest of men are scandalized in His presence. The God who sits enthroned in heaven is perfect!

II. The Perfection Which God Requires.
But not only do we see the perfection which God possesses in verse 48, we also see the perfection which God requires! “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” This is a high standard, an impossible standard! But this command issued by King Jesus in verse 48 echoes that which is found three times in the book of Leviticus (11:44, 19:2, and 20:26) and quoted by the apostle Peter (1 Pet. 1:16). In the words of Leviticus 19:2 that command is, “You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” The author of Hebrews likewise holds forth this high standard when he wrote, “Pursue … holiness without which no one will see the Lord:” (Heb. 12:14).

The greatest example of what Jesus means when He demands perfection of His followers is in the context itself. Beginning in verse 20, Jesus has described in this section of His Sermon on the Mount the degree of righteousness which He requires of His followers who would be a part of His kingdom. Their righteousness must exceed that of the scribes and Pharisees! This was no small task, for the scribes and Pharisees were the most outwardly righteous of their day. But it was only an outward righteousness. There was outward conformity to the law of God, but no inward obedience. This is the difference between the scribes and Pharisees and those who are a part of Christ’s New Covenant community. It is illustrated in the six antitheses which fill the space between verse 20 and this morning’s text, verse 48. In those 27 verses Jesus both exposes the false righteousness of the Pharisees and illustrates the true righteousness that is the characteristic of those whom He calls His disciples. This is the perfection which the King requires. Not mere external obedience, but inward conformity to God’s laws. It is not enough to not murder, one cannot be angry. It is not enough not to commit adultery, one must not lust. It is not enough to love one’s neighbors, one must also love one’s enemies. This is the high standard which is required to enter heaven. This is a righteousness that exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and is nothing less than God’s own perfection. It is an impossible standard!

III. The Perfection Which God Provides.
If Matthew 5:48 were all that we knew, we would be totally without hope! That would be the ultimate bad news, but there is good news. The gospel message is that the perfection which God both possesses and requires, He also graciously provides through the person and work of His Son, Jesus Christ.

This perfection is supplied by God to the believing sinner in three ways: positionally, practically, and permanently.

First, Scripture teaches that God provides the righteousness of Christ to the believing sinner positionally. This is the doctrine of justification by faith alone which states that God forgives sin and declares the sinner righteous on the basis of the life and death of Jesus by faith alone. In other words, the moment that a sinner truly trusts in Christ’s finished work on the cross, his/her sins are forgiven and they are seen to be sinlessly perfect in the eyes of God. This is because God has credited the sinner’s sin to Jesus, while crediting Jesus’ righteousness to the sinner. The justified are now treated just as if they were as perfect as Jesus Himself, who never sinned! (Rom. 5:1; 2 Cor. 5:21; and 1 Pet. 3:18).

Tomorrow is Memorial Day, the day when we remember those soldiers who have died in the service of our country. The Vietnam War Memorial was dedicated on November 13, 1982, honoring the 58,000 American troops who died in that conflict. In 1966, Marine Sergeant George Hutchings of 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Division, Charlie Company, had over two hundred men killed around him during an ambush by the Viet Cong. Months later, after numerous battles, he was shot three times, bayoneted and left for dead, but he survived and was awarded the Purple Heart. Speaking about the Vietnam Memorial, George Hutchings said: “On that wall is the name of Corporal Quinton Bice, who was hit in the chest with a rocket running a patrol in my place. A Christian, he had shared the Gospel with me, but I didn’t understand it till he gave his life in my place.”

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ took the rocket of God’s holy judgment upon sin in the place of all who believe. This is how God is able to forgive our sins and declare us to be perfect in His eyes.

Not only does God provide righteousness positionally, Scripture teaches that God provides the righteousness of Christ to the believing sinner practically. This is the doctrine of sanctification which states that all whose whom God has justified by faith, He begins to work in them to produce a righteousness of heart and action. Whereas justification is immediate, sanctification is a progressive or gradual work of God. It is God’s work of making us in this life into what He has already declared us to be: righteous. This is why there are commands in Scripture which call the believer to holiness in life.

1Peter 1:13-16 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

Hebrews 12:14 Pursue … holiness, without which no one will see the Lord:

If this pursuit of holiness is not a characteristic of your life, then you have not experienced God’s salvation. Because God’s salvation involves not only the forgiveness of sin, but also the changing of the sinner into the image of Christ.

Not only does God provide righteousness positionally and practically, Scripture also teaches that God provides righteousness to the believing sinner permanently. This is the doctrine of glorification which states that at the return of Christ our bodies which are now plagued by sin and sickness will be transformed into perfectly sinless bodies without the effects of sin: sickness and death.

Philippians 3:20-21 For our citizenship is in heaven, from which we also eagerly wait for the Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, 21 who will transform our lowly body that it may be conformed to His glorious body, according to the working by which He is able even to subdue all things to Himself.

1John 3:2 Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.

Romans 8:28-30 And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. 29 For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. 30 Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.

Thus, we see that the perfection which God possesses and requires, He freely provides by faith in Christ to the believer! This how a holy God sends anyone to heaven. There is no other way!

“Power in the Pulpit” Conference on Expository Preaching

Tonight following our evening service, I am headed to the campus of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY for the “Power in the Pulpit” conference which being held tomorrow. This year’s conference will be taught by Southern Seminary’s own: Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Dr. Hershael W. York. They will be joined by Dr. Jim Shaddix, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado and author of two books, Power in the Pulpit with Jerry Vines, and The Passion Driven Sermon.

I will be accompanied by three “young” preachers from our church. God has graciously gifted our small church with several “young” (some are older than I) preachers who are committed to a biblical theology and the task of expository preaching. I’m thankful to God for them! Please pray for us that we will each learn from the conference. I suspect my brothers may have just wanted me to go in order that I can get some help!

For those who would like to attend a conference like this but find yourself unable to do so, the audio from previous “Power in the Pulpit” conferences is available here. Previous speakers whose lectures are available online include Jerry Vines, Danny Akin, Robert Smith, Paige Patterson, and the late Stephen Olford.

The High Calling of Preaching

In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Matthew 3:1-2

The word translated preaching in Matthew 3:1 is the word kerusson and means “to proclaim as a herald.” By choosing this word to describe the preaching of John, Matthew is emphasizing John’s role as a herald for the King. As a herald, one’s authority comes from the content of the message and not from the messenger himself. He was not composing his own messages, but simply declaring the message of the King. This continues to be the role of Christian preachers. Namely, to declare the Word of God and not one’s own opinion. The best preaching, in fact the only preaching, is that which faithfully explains what God has already spoken.

In John’s example we can also see the primacy of preaching. Throughout the history of the church, preaching has been the primary way of communicating God’s truth to God’s people. In Matthew, John came preaching, Jesus came preaching, the disciples were sent preaching. In the book of Acts, Peter and Paul both preach. In church history, Augustine was a preacher, Chrysostom was a preacher, John Calvin and Martin Luther were above all else preachers, Charles Spurgeon was a preacher, D.L. Moody was a preacher, W.A. Criswell and Adrian Rogers were preachers, John MacArthur and John Piper are preachers! Whatever else the world may need, no need is greater than for God-called preachers to declare the same message as John the Baptist:“The King has come!”

Hercules Collins on “How to Prepare a Sermon”

The following selection is from Hercules Collins, The Temple Repair’d: or, An Essay to Revive the Long-Neglected Ordinances, of Exercising the Spiritual Gift of Prophecy for the Edification of the Churches; and of Ordaining Ministers Duly Qualified (London: 1702), 25-26.

To what I have said I shall add some further helps by way of direction and instruction to those that are inclined to the ministration of the gospel. Consider my whole method in speaking, 1. To the Penman of the Epistle. 2. To the Time when written. 3. The Occasion. 4. The Scope. Not that there will be always need upon every subject to take notice of these things, yet upon some subjects there may be need to take notice of some or all of them. Secondly, consider how your text coheres and depends upon what goes before it, but stand no longer upon it than what may make your way plain to the text. Some have spent so much time upon a context, that by that time they came to their text the hour was almost gone, though they did not know whether they should preach in the same place again. Thirdly, make an exact division of your text, if your text calls you to it, for that will be profitable in the helping of you to matter[1]. Fourthly, explain any difficult terms, but spend not time needlessly in explanation, if things are easily understood without it. Fifthly, raise as many doctrines as the text will allow, and make what good use you can of every one of them, but insist most on the chief scope of the place. Sixthly, your doctrine being laid down, prove it from the Word of God by two or three Scriptures at most; because in the mouth of two or three witnesses every truth is established.[2] After you have proved it, then lay down the reasons and arguments of the point why and wherefore it is so. … Some persons lay down some propositions just after their doctrine. But whatever is done in that, may be done in an use of instruction. But that is at your liberty, whether you will do it in propositions, or an use of instruction. And then, what use you make, let it be always natural from the doctrine, and draw as many inferences from it as it will bear; for they are generally very divine things. Mark one thing, that all doctrines will not afford the same uses. There is, (1.) The Use of Information. (2.) Caution. (3.) Trial and Examination. (4.) Refutation. (5.) Instruction. (6.) Reprehension. (7.) Exhortation, with its motives and directions. (8.) Admiration. (9.) Consolation. Now you must consider which of all these, or any other uses, will be most naturally handled from your doctrine.

[1] i.e., the main subject treated

[2] See Deuteronomy 19:15; Matthew 18:16; and, 2 Corinthians 13:1

My Favorite Books for Preachers

John Brand asked and I have answered. In response to his post, I have emailed him the following list:
  1. Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell. This was the first book on preaching which I ever read and it is my favorite. Urges the preacher to preach each sermon in the context of the whole Bible which is Christ-centered.
  2. The Preacher’s Portrait by John Stott. Great book for the preacher. Stott examines several words used for the “preacher” in the New Testament. An excellent and edifying study.
  3. Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy. Another great book on interpreting and preaching Scripture in light of the progressive revelation of Christ.
  4. Preaching & Preachers by D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones. Must read. The good doctor was very opinionated and that makes for good reading. He is at his best discussing the romance of preaching.
  5. Lectures to My Students by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Another must read. One of my favorite books that I refer to again and again. The lecture on “Sermons – Their Matter” is excellent. “The Blind Eye and Deaf Ear” and “The Minister’s Fainting Fits” are other excellent treatments. This is also a book that will make you laugh out loud because of Spurgeon’s humorous way of expressing himself.
  6. Power in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines & Jim Shaddix. This is a great book that deals with every aspect of preaching from the preparation of the preacher to the preparation of the sermon. It also deals with the delivery of sermons. An excellent one-stop guide to preaching.
  7. An Earnest Ministry by John Angell James. This older work (I’m not sure that it is still in print.), as the title suggests, emphasizes “earnestness” in ministry. James is talking about what we might call passion. This work was helpful to me in seeing the difference between communicating passion and manipulating emotions. The former is essential, the latter is evil.
  8. George Whitefield (2 volume) by Arnold Dallimore. Any preacher will be thrilled, encouraged and challenged by this biography. It is hard to put down, so beware!
  9. Spurgeon: Prince of Preachers by Lewis Drummond. One of the first biographies which I ever read and one of my favorites. It is a long one (896 pages), but an excellent read. Highly recommended.
  10. The Temple Repair’d by Hercules Collins. This one is not readily available (except in library archives in London). But it will probably be the main focus of my research and writing for my ThM thesis. It contains great exegetical and homiletical advice from a 17th century Particular Baptist. Coming soon!
Oops! I inadvertently left off The Supremacy of God in Preaching by John Piper. This quote alone is worth the price of the book.

One Day Conference on Preaching

Jim Shaddix R. Albert Mohler, Jr. Hershael York

On Monday April 2nd, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary will host its annual conference on preaching which is called “Power in the Pulpit”. This year’s conference will be taught by Southern Seminary’s own: Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr. and Dr. Hershael W. York. They will be joined by Dr. Jim Shaddix, pastor of Riverside Baptist Church in Denver, Colorado and author of two books, Power in the Pulpit with Jerry Vines, and The Passion Driven Sermon. The registration for the conference is only $30.00 if registered before March 23rd and includes a meal and conference materials (thereafter $45). SBTS Students can attend for $20/$30. To download a conference brochure click here (pdf). You may register online by clicking here.

UPDATE: Audio from previous “Power in the Pulpit” conferences is available here. Previous speakers whose lectures are available online include Jerry Vines, Danny Akin, Robert Smith, Paige Patterson, and the late Stephen Olford.

"How I Prepare An Expository Sermon": The Series

A few important comments about this series. First, it was inspired by an innocent question from The Thirsty Theologian, David Kjos (see here). Hence, he deserves all the blame and none of the credit for the content of these posts! :) Second, this is not a prescriptive, but a descriptive series. It is intentionally not titled: “How You Ought to Prepare An Expository Sermon.” It is merely a description of my practice on a weekly basis. There are, of course, some key principles that everyone ought to do in preparing to preach, but the way you do it will differ based upon your gifts, time, personality and desires. Third, I have not consulted any preaching textbooks in the preparation of this series. This series has simply been the product of my reflections upon what I actually do each week. But this does not mean that I have not been profoundly influenced by certain books on expository preaching in the development of my current practice. Those of you who are familiar with the key texts used to teach expository preaching will recognize (I hope) elements of Bryan Chappel’s Christ Centered Preaching, Graeme Goldsworthy’s Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture, Wayne McDill’s Twelve Essential Skills for Great Preaching. While those are my favorite books on the preparation and delivery of expository sermons, other great ones are available. Books like: Power in the Pulpit by Jerry Vines, Between Two Worlds by John Stott, Biblical Preaching by Haddon Robinson, and Expository Preaching edited by John MacArthur, Jr.

Finally, I would like to thank all the people who made doing this series so rewarding for me personally. When I started it was just fun for to write down what I do on a weekly basis (as my wife has read them she has said, “Yeah, that’s what you do.”), but when I began to be linked by others who seemed to be encouraged by the series I was in turn encouraged! Thanks for all the encouragement and for entrusting me with your readers!

Here’s a list of people that I’ve found who linked to some part of the series:

  • David Kjos at The Thirsty Theologian (every post). You don’t need a blogreader if you visit his excellent blog. He posts links to the best of the best (and some of my stuff too). He is also an excellent blogger himself, though he doesn’t post enough of his own stuff.
  • Tim Challies at Challies Dot Com (as if you didn’t know). Tim came from The Thirsty Theologian link and when he linked to my initial post in his daily “A La Carte” my SiteMeter went crazy.
  • Paul Lamey at Expository Thoughts. I have to confess that I had not read this blog before I found the link, but I have since added it to my blogroll and I now subscribe in my reader. I was surprised at the number of hits that I have already received and continue to receive from this site.
  • Colin Adams at Unashamed Workman (not once, but twice). This new blog has quickly has become one of my favorites! As I commented over there recently: “This blog is to preaching what ESPN is to sports!” If you’re a preacher this blog (along with Expository Thoughts) is a must read!
  • Bret Capranica at The Capranica (two or three times). Bret is a friend and a great pastor/expository in sunny California.
  • Scott Lamb at Thoughts and Adventures. Scott also posts at Wisdom of the Pages where he talks about ideas by talking about books. I appreciate Scott’s friendship and ministry.
  • Bill Hayes at rev bill. Rev. Bill Hayes is a PCUSA pastor, that’s about all I know about him. Thanks for the link, Bill!
  • Jeff de Ruyter at Worlds Apart. I don’t know Jeff either, but I appreciate the link!
  • Timmy Brister at Provocations & Pantings. Timmy is another friend that I’ve come to appreciate over the past year. He is an excellent thinker and he articulates well that which he thinks. That’s a great combination. This link was just added today, so I don’t know the impact it will have on my SiteMeter. I do, however, expect great things for Timmy is a “famous” blogger!

If you linked to the series and I missed it here, just comment here and I’ll edit the post to add your link. Thanks again everyone!

Interestingly, neither my dad or brother linked to the series. But I will give them these links anyway. They’re desperate for visits!